“By the time he got home, it was too late to take Paola and the children to dinner, as he had promised he would do that evening; besides, he could smell the mingled odours of garlic and sage as he climbed the stairs……

….’Alright’, she said, agreeing to leave it. ‘Let’s eat. I have chicken, and artichokes, and a bottle of Soave.’

‘God be praised’ he said, getting to his feet and pulling her up from the arm of the chair. Together they went into the kitchen”

-Donna Leon, Death at La Fenice



Donna Leon’s detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti, is blessed with a (usually) understanding wife, who is a superb cook – but they are a busy couple with a family, and it’s usually something simple that she conjures up. This dish is a summery Mediterranean roast chicken recipe – quick and easy to make, which goes particularly well with wild rice, although that would not be a very Venetian combination (that’s where the books are set).

In any case, this is how I imagine Paola would have made it.  Drink it, as she suggests, with a bottle of cold white wine.


Recipe for Paola’s One Pot Lemon Chicken with Artichokes and Mushrooms

Serves 4


  • 60ml/¼ cup olive oil – use the oil that the artichokes are in
  • 60ml/¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 60ml/¼ cup red vermouth
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic crushed with 1 tsp smoked salt
  • 15 grinds Indonesian long pepper
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 generous chicken quarters
  • 200g/1⅔ cup sliced mushrooms
  • 530g/1lb 3 oz jar artichoke hearts in oil – drained
  • 1 red onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 lemons, cut into thinish wedges
  • sprigs of rosemary, thyme or sage


  1. Preheat the oven to 210°C.
  2. In a small bowl mix the oil, vinegar, vermouth, garlic, salt and pepper and mustard. Leave to marinate overnight, or as long as you can.
  3. Place the chicken quarters, skin side up, in an ovenproof, ceramic baking dish.
  4. Arrange the mushrooms, onion, artichokes, lemons and herbs around the chicken.
  5. Pour over the marinade.
  6. Roast for an hour.


Music to cook to

Leon’s Death At La Fenice has a plot which centres around a performance of La Traviata – below you can listen to Maria Callas performing this fabulous opera.